`253 The Torah on Word Games and Reality
Chananya Weissman

January 12, 2023


It's nauseating that the subject matter in this article is contested and needs to be discussed in seriousness, let alone within Israel and among “educated” Jews. Our society has sunk to such a low spiritual and intellectual state that the most basic and self-evident truths are denied in favor of fantasy and science fiction, all in the name of progress.

So be it. If society is on the 49th level of impurity, here's a booster shot of Torah truth to raise it back up a notch or two.

The Mishna in Shevuos 29A teaches about shevuas shav, an oath made in vain, which, of course, is a serious transgression. It begins as follows:

איזו היא שבועת שוא נשבע לשנות את הידוע לאדם אמר על העמוד של אבן שהוא של זהב ועל האיש שהוא אשה ועל האשה שהיא איש

What is an oath made in vain? If one swears about something that is contrary to what is known to man; he says about a pillar of stone that it is gold, about a man that he is a woman, or about a woman that she is a man...

This is codified in Jewish law without controversy (Rambam Hilchos Shevuos 5:22, Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De'ah 236:4, etc.). It's as basic as it gets.

Chazal offered examples of statements that are so absurd, such obvious distortions of that which is self-evident, that one who takes an oath to that effect transgresses the prohibition of taking an oath in vain. According to the Torah, one who swears that a man is a woman, or a woman is a man, is not taken seriously. He is flogged for swearing in vain.

Even if he brings a peer-reviewed “scientific” study.

There are those today, faux intellectuals, who claim there is Torah support for gender-bending madness, as they do for every perverse notion that emerges from the spiritual sewage of the Western world. It is not enough for them to be perverts and idolaters; they have to claim they are righteous followers of the Torah, in fact the most righteous of all.

When they go on their inevitable hunt for Torah sources to cherry-pick, take out of context, and distort beyond recognition, you can be sure this one won't make it into their little basket.

Nedarim 24B is another illuminating source for dark times such as these. The Gemara discusses the legal consequences of foolish oaths and vows. For example, someone swears that he saw “like those who went up from Egypt on the road”. This is an impossible exaggeration – surely he did not see millions of people in one place – and therefore it is a foolish vow.

But is it? The Gemara continues:

Ravina said to Rav Ashi, maybe this man saw a nest of ants and called them by the name “those who went up from Egypt”, and hence he swore appropriately!

He said to him, when one swears, he swears according to our minds [according to the understanding of the average person], and we don't refer to ants in this way.

It's standard practice for Amalekite institutions to play word games and change the definition of common words to trick people and promote a nefarious agenda – all while “technically” telling the truth.

The Torah doesn't accept such chicanery. If, for example, you want to advertise a pharmaceutical product as being “safe and effective”, the definitions of “safe” and “effective” have to align with what the average person understands them to be, not technical jargon (see here) that obfuscates how unsafe and ineffective many such products actually are.

The same is true with all the other word games that the snakes play to avoid giving straight answers to questions, avoid legal trouble, and, most of all, mislead unsuspecting people down a harmful path.

It doesn't matter what they call something. It matters what normal people understand it to be.

This is supported by sources in Tanach as well. When Yaacov agreed to work for Lavan for seven years in exchange for the right to marry Rachel, he stipulated “for Rachel, your youngest daughter” (Bereishis 29:18). Why all the details? Everyone already knew that Rachel was his youngest daughter.

Rashi cites the Midrash, as follows: Because he knew that [Lavan] was a swindler. [Therefore Yaacov] said to him, I will work for Rachel. And lest you say [we agreed upon] a different Rachel from the market, therefore it says “your daughter”. And lest you say “I will switch Leah's name and call her Rachel,” therefore it says “your youngest”. Even so, it didn't help, for he tricked him.

They didn't just come up with this game yesterday.

As Yeshaya 20:5 warns:

הוי האמרים לרע טוב ולטוב רע שמים חשך לאור ואור לחשך שמים מר למתוק ומתוק למר

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who profess darkness to be light and light to be darkness, bitter to be sweet and sweet to be bitter.

I wonder if this phenomenon has ever been so literally true.



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